With carjackings and car thefts on the rise across the area, the Fairfax County Police Department created a special unit earlier this year.
A dramatic new dashboard camera video shows how an auto theft unit is set in motion to systematically capture a car thief. Several unmarked police cruisers in red SUVs sailing the Beltway. The officer pressed the SUV driver on his shoulder. The driver was arrested and the stolen car was left on the street.
It was the work of the Automotive Crime Enforcement Team (ACE), led by Jeffrey Andrea.
“One thing that is common to violent crime in the region is that most of the robberies, murders and shootings use stolen vehicles,” said Andrea.
Since its launch in April, the ACE team has recovered 84 stolen vehicles, made 78 arrests, filed over 400 charges and recovered 17 guns. Many of these firearms were not salvaged during demolition, but from stolen vehicles at auto dealerships. A car thief steals a vehicle, changes the VIN number and tries to sell it to a dealer.
Hermann Cuardos, General Manager of Fair Oaks Motors, recently called the police on a suspicious person trying to call a dealership.
“They found that in the car, the person probably had 50 checks in different amounts for different cars from different dealers.
Earlier this week, Fairfax County Police recovered a stolen car at Tysons Corner, but the driver didn’t know it had been stolen. The driver purchased the car from a local dealer, but police say he unknowingly bought it from a car thief.
Car dealers say thieves are getting more high-tech. A thief recently went to Fair Oaks Motors. He didn’t even put his hand on the key fob, but he had a device in his pocket anyway that could steal the key fob’s information. That night, the thief returned to the dealership and stole a car from the parking lot. Thankfully, the auto theft unit was able to recover the vehicle and return it to the dealer.
Residents have also been hit hard. In October, a homeowner’s security camera caught a person going door-to-door near South Van Dorn and Franconia Road looking for an unlocked car. Four cars were stolen that night.
“You would be surprised how many people have stolen how many cars, just by leaving their keys in the car,” said Andrea.
Police say the new team has been successful in recovering stolen vehicles, but many of these crimes are preventable.
Thieves know how to disable navigation devices, police say, but there are other third-party tracking systems that car owners can install to track stolen vehicles. Police advise that if your vehicle is stolen, don’t try to track it yourself. Call the police to retrieve it.